The Chelan got a much-needed exterior topside paint job during
its recent drydock at Todd Pacific Shipyards. There are some nice
before-and-after shots here.
What was all rusty orange is now shiny white.
Next, the car deck will be painted, but that won’t happen until
later. It’s going back to the Anacortes-San Juan Islands route on
The Hyak, which frequently runs on the Bremerton route, and
Yakima are in dire need of paint jobs. The Yakima will get a
partial topside coating when it goes into maintenance in March, but
the Hyak will have to wait until November to get its partial
Washington State Ferries has launched a new and improved Vessel
Watch tool on its Web page. A Beta version, it’s a work in
progress, but already cooler than its primitive but useful
The new Vessel Watch pretty much does the same thing as the old,
but better. They’re both basically maps with little icons
representing the boats so you can see which ones are on a route and
where they are at the moment.
The new map is more detailed and looks a lot nicer, which doesn’t
really add to its functionality, but you can zoom in and out, which
you can’t on the old one. Every few seconds you can see the new
boat icons move across the water, like green jumping beans. It uses
GPS coordinates from the boats’ transponders. On the old map, you
had to hit the refresh button for the little blue arrows to move to
their approximate locations.
They’re still working on some advanced features. If you click on a
boat, a screen pops up with slots for next departure, estimated
arrival time, heading, speed, longitude and latitude. Today, only
the heading is working. I’m pretty sure the latitude and longitude
were there when I looked a few days ago. The next departure time is
supposed to be available by the end of the month.
Moments after posting about the Senate transportation budget not
including a ferry fuel surcharge, I got a story from the Associated
Press that the House had released its transpo budget.
I looked into it, and here are some key points for ferries.
It would spend $27 million to cover the cost of diesel prices
that were higher than what they were budgeted.
It would defer implementing a ferry fuel surcharge. That policy
would be re-evaluated after looking into ways to conserve fuel and
reduce the effect of price volatility on the fuel budget.
It continues to support the building of three 64-car ferries and
provides an additional $8.45 million to finalize the detailed
design for the 144-car ferries.
It provides funding to develop a reservation system.
There’s been some confusion about whether a ferry fuel surcharge
in the Senate’s transportation budget. It’s not very clear in the
budget language itself, so I talked to Senate staff and they said
no. The ferries are fully funded in their budget through this
budget period, which ends on June 30, 2011. So there will be no
surcharge before then. There is language in the bill that
authorizes Washington State Ferries to set up the mechanism for a
surcharge that it can use if necessary in the future.
Ann Erickson, chairwoman of the Bremerton Ferry Advisory
Committee, e-mailed a letter to the editor on Jan. 29 lamenting
changes to the ferry advisory committees contained within Senate
Bill 6109. Much changed between then and when the letter ran in the
paper on Feb. 6. All mention of the committees was removed from the
bill, according to Chris Mulick, spokesman for the Senate
“I’m told that the ferry bill doesn’t do anything to impact the
Ferry Advisory Committee,” he wrote on Feb. 1. “That’s not to say
that won’t change. but as of this moment in time, there is no
impact. Or so I’m told.”
The bill is a hodgepodge of all things ferries. That had included
the FAC changes. Erickson was upset that it would have eliminated
the direct relationship between the FACs and Washington State
Ferries. Instead, the FACs would work through local
It would have eliminated the semi-annual public meetings. WSF would
have meet with local governments instead. It would have eliminated
the FAC executive council, comprising the chairs of each FAC. They
meet every other month with WSF. And it would have required local
officials to serve on FACs and constrain who local officials could
assign to the FACs.
This makes little sense because the FACs have been doing a good job
of working with the ferry system and local governments already have
too much to do and wouldn’t have been eager to carry out another
The bill remains alive in the Senate, without the FAC stuff.
A ferry survey question freaked out some who are signed up for
the Washington State Transportation Commission’s Ferry Rider
Opinion Group (FROG), and ultimately resulted in an apology.
Last week, a question went out whether cutting the ferry schedule
by a third or increasing fares by a third would severely reduce the
“This is akin to asking if you’d rather be run over by a bus going
uptown or a bus going downtown,” Bremerton City Councilman Adam
Brockus e-mailed me. Cathy Ridley of Kingston also wrote in, “They
don’t sugar-coat it, do they?” and the Transportation Commission
apparently got lots of nastygrams. It issued an apology to
everybody who received the question.
“I would like to sincerely apologize for any confusion or
frustration the question may have caused you, wrote commission
chairwoman Carol Moser. “It was not our intent to offend or upset
anyone by asking it.”
She said there will be a more thorough review and vetting process
in developing future questions.
The question was part of a side activity of the FROG Web site. They
are doing occassional quick polls that are single, hypothetical
questions aimed at getting a quick response from folks. The results
appear in live time and fluctuate as people respond. Detailed
survey questionnaires will be sent out in March and over the
“I hope you will accept our apology and stick with us as we move
forward into this very new world of opinion polling,” Moser wrote.
“There will be some bumps in the road, as we’ve seen with this
latest question, but if we stay committed to working together, we
will all have the benefit of being part of something that makes an
impact on the future of our ferry system.”
Kari Ulatoski, Ferry Community Partnership chairwoman, expressed
her disappointment to the Transportation Commission. Commission
administrator Reema Griffith replied.
“Bottom line – this question was not asked in the proper manner nor
was it properly vetted and reviewed,” she said. “We will be sending
out an apology e-mail later today, but do understand we did NOT
intend to offend or upset anybody – nor are there any plans to cut
service and/or raise fares.”
She also said Washington State Ferries had nothing to do with the
question, so leave them alone.
I didn’t have the space in Wednesday’s paper to get into the
simmering Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll controversy, other than to say
there’ll be a meeting on Tuesday in Gig Harbor.
For a difference of 50 cents per crossing, things are really
heating up. The citizen advisory group recommended that electronic
tolls stay at $2.75; the Transportation Commission wants $3.25.
The latest episode is that local legislators had asked for meetings
in Port Orchard and Gig Harbor where the state treasurer could
explain his new “framework” to the public and the Transportation
Commission could back up their proposal. Treasurer Jim MacIntire
wants to maintain a higher reserve than the citizen group has done
in the past. The Narrows doesn’t need it, but it will look good
when the state is trying to get the lowest bond rates for future
After those meetings, the citizen group would meet to decide
whether to stand its ground or fall in with the Transportation
Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor,
and Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, were pretty ticked off when
they found out the first two meetings weren’t scheduled, only the
citizen group meeting (5-7 p.m., Civic Center).
“The people need to understand what is happening here,” Angel said.
“That’s what we wanted more than anything, a meeting that would
provide that information to the public.
“The three of us are greatly disappointed. They’re not paying any
attention to us. They’re going to do what they want to do and just
let it go.”
“I’m disappointed we’re not offering our citizens a chance to
understand this proposal,” Seaquist said. “Sen. Kilmer, Rep. Angel
and I remain opposed to it.”
It looks like the Transportation Commission is trying to combine
the three meetings into one. The treasurer will speak, Commissioner
Dan O’Neal will explain the Transportation Commission’s position
and then the citizen group will decide.
Reema Griffith, the Transportation Commission’s administrator, said
the commission won’t host any public meetings until it has an
actual rate proposal and the financial plan that goes with it. The
members are wrestling with whether the treasurer’s 110 percent
coverage factor is the right thing to do. They’re not unanimous on
that, she said.
“It’s currently premature for the commission to publicly host
anything,” she said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to say is the
right path to take on this.”
The commission made its $3.25/$5 proposal to get the citizen
group’s reaction, she said. It’s probably on the higher end of what
“There’s plenty of room for discussion,” she said. “We’re far from
committed to it. We’re getting reaction from the treasurer and
we’re going to get reaction from the CAC.”
Griffith does side with the treasurer that tolls policy must be
consistent statewide, so this decision has implications for future
“The bottom line is it’s all in flux right now,” she said. “We’re
trying to assure people it’s not a done deal, that the horse hasn’t
left the barn.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, the citizen group will report back to the
Transportation Commission at its Feb. 16-17 meeting and the
commission will decide on the number of local public input
meetings. The commission will release its official toll proposal at
its March 16-17 meeting, hold public input meetings in April and
hold its final rate hearing where it will enact the rates in late
May. They will go into effect on July 1.
Kitsap Transit is playing to a tough crowd.
I wrote a story for Saturday’s paper that told about transit
executives and board members committing to plan the agency’s
long-range future so as not to spend money on things they don’t
need. It seemed like a wise move, but readers who commented on the
story showed no mercy. Seventeen of 18 messages were negative.
Just the words “Kitsap Transit” bring out hostility in people. One
of the agency’s first goals needs to be to somehow turn around its
image, otherwise it’ll be hard to get anything done.
But what can it do? What do people want from Kitsap Transit?
I get the fast ferry complaint. Twice you voted down sales tax
increases for ferries. Still the agency wants to put them on the
water. You think you’re not being listened to and don’t want to pay
for somebody else’s commute. But if you’re a commuter, fast ferries
are the best thing going. Not much middle ground there. Did you
ever ride the Chinook or Snohomish before they were forced to slow
down? They were too cool, outside of scouring beaches down to
hardpan. Plus, the state was paying for them.
Several commenters chided Kitsap Transit for being “Kitsap Commuter
Transit.” It serves commuters to the ferries and the shipyard well,
but not those who want to get from Suquamish to the mall during the
day. Well, buses need to go where the people are. They’re for
“mass” transit, not taxi service. If you think they’re highly
subsidized now, imagine how much it would cost to run to the
boonies all the time to fetch a couple people.
A commenter said, “ … try and get a bus from Hansville to Port
Orchard to Olalla to Belfair.” Has anybody every wanted to do
We all benefit to some degree, though it doesn’t seem like it when
we’re sitting on Navy Yard Highway when the shipyard lets out or
stuck in Highway 305 ferry traffic. Just think of how much worse it
would be if those thousands of people riding in buses were driving
Fares, by the way, cover 19 percent of Kitsap Transit’s operating
costs. Seventy-seven percent comes from local sales taxes.
Everybody in the county pays it, so I guess you could argue that
everybody should get the same service. Maybe in New York or
Chicago, but not here. Did people move to Seabeck or Olalla
expecting to ride the bus? I don’t think so. How did they get
around before there was a Kitsap Transit?
Commenters also complained that Kitsap Transit and its board are
Bremerton-centered. It’s hard to argue otherwise, considering it
helped to build the Bremerton Transportation Center, has a floor
for its headquarters above the Kitsap Conference Center, and the
routed and Access main bases are in the city. My question would be,
where would be better.
Three board members are from Bremerton, two each from North Kitsap
and South Kitsap, and one each from Bainbridge and Central Kitsap.
They’re mayors, county commissioners and city council people.
Kitsap Transit says its first task will be to restore Sunday and
other service that have been cut the past couple years because of
budget shortfalls. That would be a good place to start in restoring